Stuff (rant)

Free Stuff.

Recently we found ourselves in the position of having more beds than we needed, due to having (finally) acquired a proper bed for the now giant-sized Nathan, rather than the cabin bed he was very excited to own at 6 years old.  The bed in question, having been second-hand when he got it, was hardly BNWT (I speak Ebay).  However, it was solid and a good brand and ready for a makeover.  Rather than chopping it up for firewood or dragging it down to the recycle centre for quick disposal, we decided to advertise it, in the hope that someone could get some use out of it.

Less than an hour after the advert went in, the enquiries started coming.  I had described it as accurately as I could, and been brutally honest about its condition.  I had also posted several good, clear photos so that potential buyers would know exactly what they were getting for their £0.00.  Nonetheless, the questions flooded in… How big?  I don’t know (rookie error), it’s in bits in the garage, as big as a single bed, as big as it looks like it is…. Does it have all the parts?  Yes, it has all the parts it says it has in the ad…. Does it come with instructions?  No, it’s about 400 years old, it doesn’t come with instructions, it comes with some long bits of wood, some short bits of wood and some bolts…you fix them all together until it vaguely resembles the shape of a bed and then you shove the mattress on top…. I would like the bed and I live in the same town as you, can I have it please?  Yes, you certainly can, when would you like to collect?  I’m not sure, I don’t have a car, how far away are you?  About half a mile..if you don’t have a car, how can you collect it? I think I can collect it piece by piece on my bike.  (Seriously?) ….  Can I fit it in a Ford Fiesta?  I don’t know!  I don’t know if you can fit it in a Ford Fiesta, a Ford Ka, a Smart car, a pedal car or on a bike.  Isn’t it your job to find out if you can fit it in your car? …. I want that bed.  When can you deliver it?  Scuse me?  When can I deliver it?  It’s a free bed, it’s free, I’m trying to give it away.  I thought someone might appreciate it.  Do I also have to spend 3 hours cramming it in to my car, and pay for the petrol, to deliver it to you?

It’s not that I’ve disappeared completely up my own ego for posting one free-ad, but I really never realised quite how tricky it could be to give something away. Fortunately it has found its way to a lovely new owner who took it away this week…  in a Ford Fiesta.


This afternoon I found myself on the receiving end of a ticking-off by Concerned Citizen of Lincolnshire (CCL).  CCL had parked at the (small rural) supermarket and found, to her absolute horror, that the vehicle next to hers (mine) contained a dog.  As is commonly known to all animal lovers, leaving a dog in a parked vehicle is a hanging offence, particularly when there is a sun in the solar system.  Please excuse my flippancy; obviously I understand that dogs left in unattended vehicles during extreme (either way) weather conditions can suffer great distress and harm.  I get it.  I also appreciate that there are people out there who are prepared to do what is necessary to protect animals (and, I hope, humans) from such distress and harm if it is in their power to do so.  The bit I don’t quite understand is why CCL chose today to wave her self-righteous flag in my face.  It has been mildly warm today, with a cool breeze.  We were in the supermarket for 20 minutes and, as always when he is in the car, we (visually) checked the dog every few minutes (has he eaten the steering wheel? Is he wearing my coat? Has he found a way to unlock the doors and chase after the ducks in the stream?)   Each time he was fine – sitting in the driver’s seat, looking towards the supermarket doors, waiting for us.  All four windows were open and, crucially, he was (obviously) a soggy dog(gie), having spent the preceding hour doing his swimming lessons in the river.  He was not panting, not even breathing heavily, and showing absolutely no signs of distress whatsoever, because he wasn’t in distress.  Mild day, cool car, damp dog, no distress, no problem.

Except that CCL had a problem.  She lay in wait.  When we returned from the supermarket she leapt from her hiding place and asked, ‘Is that your car?”  (No, I’m just putting my £91 worth of shopping in it, then I’m going to go and get in my Mercedes over there and drive away)  “Yes”.  “You’ve left your doggie in it!”  (No, I haven’t left my doggie in it, I’ve left my DOG in it.  He stopped being a doggie when I stopped being 3)  “Yes”.  “After all the warnings we’ve had, you still left your doggie in it [etc].”  (grrr)  “He’s fine.  We’ve been a few minutes, he’s wet, it’s not hot, he’s not panting, we’re keeping an eye on him, he’s fine.”  “You’ve been 20 minutes!”

Ok, so CCL was concerned about the dog.  Not for any actual reason, other than she has seen stuff on the TV warning of the dangers of leaving dogs in cars.  So, for 20 minutes she sat, or stood, and waited.  Regardless of whether she had any actual cause for concern, she waited.  She didn’t walk 10 feet to the supermarket to demand a speaker callout to the irresponsible owners of the slightly-damp-and-quite-happy-looking-labrador-currently-leaving-a-muddy-puddle-on-the-drivers-seat-of-a-PTCruiser.  She didn’t fling a brick through the windscreen, or try the doors or, indeed, take any action whatsoever, other than to lie in wait and hit me with the wisdom gained from many years of inexperience.

I should, perhaps, have taken the time to point out to her that, although her concern was much appreciated, it would be very helpful to understand just a few things about dogs, weather, distress etc before jumping to the unnecessary rescue.  I didn’t.  I lost patience and muttered a few things a bit too loudly.

Dear CCL, I apologise for muttering stuff quite loudly as you drove past with your window open.  Really.


When I was a kid, I spent an inordinate amount of time mucking out the stables of horses belonging to other people.  I also poo-picked fields (yes, that IS a thing), groomed, washed, raked, moved muck heaps, carried bales and absolutely anything and everything I could just to be around ponies.  Sometimes I got a ride, which was a super-bonus.  When I was a bit older, I worked every weekend and every before-school morning and after-school afternoon at a yard, doing very much the same stuff for free, for very similar reasons.  Later on down the line, I started exercising other people’s horses for them for mutual benefit (I got to ride, they got a fit horse).  Sometimes they would ask me to look after their horses while they were on holiday and, usually, they offered to pay for these extra duties.  In any case, I would always leave the horses and the yard as I found them – clean stable, clean horse, clean tack.

Recently I have noticed more and more people advertising horses to ‘share’.  This is, in theory, a lovely idea.  However, when you start looking into it a bit deeper, it seems that the ‘mutual benefit’ may be becoming even less mutual and a little more one-sided.  I believe the generally accepted definition of ‘sharing’ a horse is that one person owns it, and another pays to ‘share’ it.  Sharing it does not provide you with a share of it, merely with an agreed sharing time.  So, you can pay from around £20 to £50 a week (usually plus the cost of shoeing) to hopefully treat the horse as your own for the agreed times.  At all other times (and, in fact, at all times), you don’t actually own any part of the horse, nor do you own the right to make any decisions about it or what you can do with it.  What you are paying for is the right to probably ride, and certainly take care of, the horse on those agreed days.

In an ideal world, and I’m sure in some well thought-out real life situations, the owner will share everything with you (except, of course, ownership).  You will make decisions together, work together and be flexible and, for the obvious benefits of having the use of a horse you probably couldn’t afford (time or money) on your own, you pay towards its upkeep.  Unfortunately, in other cases, the same cannot be said.  Recently I saw an advert for a sharer; she (the advertiser) has a difficult young horse she cannot control and does not have the experience to school.  She is quite honest about the horse (good) and honest about what she requires from a sharer (great).  She would like someone with a lot of experience in schooling young horses to take on her youngster and school it up so that she can eventually ride it.  She would like someone to treat the horse as their own (3/4 days a week) although it must be kept at her yard.  She would also like them to pay £40 a week.  Hold on… so, you have to travel to this person’s yard every day (for 3/4 days), throw your heart and soul into a difficult youngster, blood, sweat and tears, and for this, you PAY?

I’m pretty sure, even in the magical animal-loving world, this could only happen with horses.  If I put an advert in the paper saying I’ve got a git of a dog who won’t walk on the lead to save his life and who eats the sandwich off your plate in the amount of time it takes to pick up the remote, and I’d like someone to come and walk him and train him up twice a day for 4 days a week and scrape the poo off the lawn on those days and wash his bedding and feed him and groom him, and I’d like them to pay me £40 quid for the pleasure, I wonder how many takers I’d get?  Probably just get a load of questions about whether he’d fit into a Ford Fiesta.

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